El Paso Chosen for Federal Pilot Program
Effort to Reduce Border Wait Times, Boost Trade and Travel
El Paso, Texas – The City of El Paso has been selected for a federal pilot program that will reduce border wait times by entering into a public-private partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The City of El Paso is one of five pilot programs selected.
“Today’s announcement is proof that a strong relationship between the City of El Paso and Customs and Border Protection pays off. For a number of years, the City of El Paso has discussed the possibility of creating a public-private partnership with CBP to assist in fully staffing our ports of entry, and today that idea became a reality,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. “This pivotal pilot program will give new life to our region by helping address long bridge wait times that are affecting the El Paso economy. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of City Council and City Staff who helped make this happen. I also want to thank Congressman O’Rourke for advocating for our project with officials in Washington, DC.”
The City, as part of its long-standing efforts to reduce border wait times and enrich bi-national trade, travel and commerce, submitted a request in May 2013 asking to be considered for the public-private partnership pilot program. Today, city leaders were notified by the federal agency that El Paso has been chosen for the program.
Under the City’s partnership proposal, a portion of bridge toll revenues from city-owned ports of entry would be used to reimburse the CBP for enhanced services during peak travel times. The request sought to have all pedestrian, passenger vehicle and cargo primary inspection lanes be fully staffed by CBP during peak travel periods to achieve pre-established standards for border wait times.
The concept of paying the federal agency to add CBP inspection staff in El Paso to reduce the wait at the bridges was originally initiated as part of a motion approved by City Council on August 3, 2011. The motion authorized increasing bridge tolls to $3 for passenger vehicles and $4 per axle for commercial vehicles to generate funding to add CBP inspection staff locally. The federal agency back then was unable to accept the funding offer. However, the council’s effort combined with the Consolidate and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 helped to spur the pilot program that gives CBP the authority to enter into public-private partnerships to leverage additional financing to reduce border wait times.
The 50 cent bridge toll increases are estimated to generate about $2.5 million to $3.1 million based on current traffic flows.
El Paso is the second-busiest land port of entry in the U.S. by total trade value. Annually, more than $90 billion in trade passes through El Paso and Mexico. It is also heavily used by leisure border crossers.
Passenger vehicles and pedestrians combined account for more than 6 million border crossings at city-owned bridges during the first six months of the current fiscal year. In fiscal year 2012, they exceeded 7 million crossings.